Last year, I listened to The Power of Vulnerability lecture series from Brene Brown. Although I finished it months ago, I keep thinking back to it every day. I took so much from it, found it’s messages so utterly compelling that I felt I must recommend it. This audiobook has caused subtle changes to how I think and behave that have made me kinder, braver and more level headed.
On the face of it, The Power of Vulnerability may seem to be the same old self-help bollocks that is spouted by gurus and life coaches with nauseating effects. I believe that it is much more than that. It’s important to point out that Brene Brown comes from a research background. She’s an academic at heart and so even if the mention of ‘wholehearted living’ makes you do a bit of sick in your mouth, her teachings are evidence based.
The premise of the audiobook is that most of us avoid vulnerability. When we take risks, don’t conform or act differently to our peers, we make ourselves vulnerable; vulnerable to mistakes or criticism. That scares us and so most of us avoid this.
Instead, we shy away from showing any form of weakness. This can be particularly true of professional people. We don our perfectionist hats. We try to do everything perfectly because if we do so, no one can criticise. No one can call us out.
That’s true, of course. If everything you do is perfect, you’re safe. No one can get you. However, the negative side of this is that you are severely limiting yourself, what you attempt in life, what you may ultimately achieve.
I’m not really talking about dentistry here, by the way. Clinically, you must always work within your own personal skill set. Try new thinks, of course, and learn new skills. But when taking risks has consequences for someone else (such as your patient) you must be cautious.
Brene Brown is talking about being brave enough to be vulnerable in pretty much every aspect of your life. For example, you have to be in a vulnerable place to truly love. You have to be vulnerable to put your emotions on the line and risk being hurt to love someone. You have to let down your guard and expose your feelings. But who would want to live without those wonderful relationships that we have with each other.
‘Cool’ is your straight jacket
This was one of my favourite ideas from the audiobook so consider this. What’s the pose that you would strike if someone said ‘act cool’?
Lots of people do exactly the same thing. You cross your arms across your chest. One foot forward. Stern look on your face.
What else does this pose look like? It looks like you’re wearing a straight jacket. And there’s no expression, there’s no vulnerability there. Trying to act ‘cool’, to fit in with everyone else and conform is not good for you. ‘Cool’ is restrictive and limiting. You could even describe it as dangerous.
It is much more important to be authentic (and maybe even a little silly if you fancy) rather than cool. We all need to be brave enough to be ourselves, do things our own way and live wholeheartedly.
Don’t puff up
This idea has made such a difference to how I behave. We will all naturally encounter some conflicts and disagreements to a certain extent. It’s unavoidable and we cannot control this. We can, however, control how we react.
When interacting with people, when socialising and even when being challenged or expressing something that you believe in, Brene had the following mantra…
Don’t puff up. Don’t shrink back. Stay in your sacred ground.
I hope that makes sense out of the context of the audiobook. This requires you to make yourself vulnerable but it allows you to be authentic and true to yourself.
For me personally, this has made a particular difference at home. Before, if Lydia and I had a disagreement, I might have got annoyed. I might have shouted. What was happening, to use Brene’s phrase, is that I was ‘puffing up’. I was getting angry and inflaming the issue, making it less likely that we could find resolution.
What I now try to do is ‘stay in my sacred ground’. I don’t lose my temper but equally, I don’t shrink back and not express what I really think. I try to remain calm, accept that people have differences of opinion and express myself as calmly and fairly as possible.
Fortunately, Lydia and I rarely argue. However, if we now disagree on something, I am able to act much more logically and considerately than I could before. It’s really strange but by just knowing the phrase above and understanding that my natural reaction would have been to ‘puff up’, I can control my emotions much better.
The Power of Vulnerability is a lecture series given by Brene Brown in front of an audience. I enjoyed this element as it had a very different feel to most audiobooks. I bought it from Audible but I believe that you can also buy it as CDs from Amazon, if anyone still has a CD player.
Brene Brown (as you may expect in lectures named The Power of Vulnerability) makes herself vulnerable by being incredibly honest about her own character flaws. Most of the lectures are her recounting personal experiences, mistakes she’s made and how her stories relate to her research of vulnerability. She is fun, relatable and witty. I learnt so much from these lectures on being braver, more authentic and a nicer person to be around.
I actually bought this audiobook by accident. I thought it was something else and was a bit miffed when I started listening. But, as I have already said, it has had a profound effect on me; something which I am really grateful for. If you would like help on understanding your self worth and being brave enough to just be yourself, I would strongly urge you to listen.